Covid-19 Vaccination Program in Japan
The beginning of vaccination against Coronavirus in Japan 🦠 has been delayed, although it is a highly sensitive topic, both on the health aspects (with questions on its quick availability, its effectiveness and possible risks), and touristic issues (Tokyo Olympic Games 🏅 in summer 2021 and the reopening of the borders).
In this article, we will give updates on the information provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, and of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign’s progresses in the archipelago.
🗓 What is the vaccination timeline in Japan?
In Japan, the vaccination campaign began on February 17, 2021, about 2 months after many western countries such as France, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States. The archipelago was the last of the G7 countries to launch its vaccination program, and one of the last among the developed countries (along with South Korea and Australia).
To this day, Japan’s tentative vaccination timeline is the following:
- 40,000 physicians and nurses starting February 17,
- Front line medical workers (4.8 million from March),
- All individuals aged 65 years and older (36 million) starting from April 12, to vaccinate within 3 months, a goal that is likely difficult to reach,
- Japanese athletes selected for the 2021 Summer Olympic Games between April and June,
- Persons at risk / with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes (8.2 million) and individuals aged between 60 and 64 years old (7.5 million) from July, depending on the achievement of the previous steps,
- And the general population (~52 million) later — except the 18 million of under 16 years old children who are not in the scope of vaccination.
Late 2020, vaccination of the entire population at risk by the end of the first semester in 2021 was announced. Afterward, 55 million persons should have been inoculated within 2 months, that is to say about 1 million shots per day, a very optimistic pace that was quickly cast aside... This schedule has been since modified several times and is now falling behind the initial deadlines. Moreover, in a March survey 2/3 of Japanese people thought that the vaccination pace was too slow.
👫 How many Japanese vaccinated?
As of April 12, about 1.129.687 first doses have been inoculated (including 560.905 completed vaccinations) in Japan and only to medical professionals.
On March 16, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (72 years old) received his first shot. In mid-April, Japan was the 60th country in the world regarding the proportion of its population who was vaccinated.
The current projection is that Japan’s vaccination campaign will probably last until early 2022 to reach herd immunity. As a reminder, Japan has 126.3 million inhabitants, with an ageing and more at risk population: more than 1/3 of Japanese people are 65 years and older!
Herd immunity is without a doubt an essential factor to allow Japan’s reopening to overseas tourist. Want to know when Japan will reopen its borders to tourists? Subscribe to Kanpai’s Newsletter and get information on real time:
🧑⚕️ Is the Coronavirus vaccine mandatory in Japan?
No, vaccine is not mandatory in Japan:
- Neither for the general population,
- Nor medical professionals,
- Nor foreign residents and visa holders (business, students, working holidays, etc.),
- Nor for prospective tourists.
One must add that Japanese people tend to be defiant towards vaccination (almost as much as the French, the most refractory on this matter). According to surveys, about only 2/3 of the population is willing to get vaccinated.
It may be fostered by the fact that, even during state of emergency periods, daily life in Japan was almost normal in Covid times, except that telework was encouraged and more implemented. There is no discussion about a vaccine passport yet.
To get English language information about vaccination in Japan, a toll-free line has been established in Japan: 0120-761770.
💉 How many vaccine doses will Japan receive?
Just before announcing his resignation, Shinzo Abe explained on 2020, August 28 that he wanted to secure vaccine supplies for the population. Therefore, 120 million doses (to vaccinate 60 million persons) were pre-ordered during summer 2020. Early 2021, the figure was updated to 314 million doses, half of which secured at Pfizer and the other half shared between AstraZeneca and Moderna. The number of reserved doses thus exceed the number of Japanese by about 30 million.
However, the swiftness of vaccination depends on various factors (for example, the number of medical workers available to administrate the shots), and the first one is the availability of doses. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the fact that the laboratories struggle to make and supply the vaccine on a global level, Japan seems to have fail in the contracts negotiations and the deliveries are scarce.
The vaccine delivery schedule in Japan was set on 500,000 doses per week since its beginning on 2021, February 12, exclusively produced in Europe. As of March 22, about 3 million doses have been delivered (2 doses are necessary to inoculate one person).
100 million doses of Pfizer vaccine are expected (~10 million per week) in May and June 2021 (~15 million per week).
🏥 What are the authorized vaccines in Japan?
The Japanese government did not trust the trials and tests performed in the other countries. Therefore, in a traditional Japanese way, it used much caution and took its time to deliver its own heath and administrative protocols to laboratories. This is why authorizations were delivered later in Japan:
- Pfizer: authorization granted on 2021, February 14,
- Astra Zeneca: dossier submitted in early February, and authorization expected in May or June. The production started mid-March to supply 120 million doses, but the vaccine was put on hold in several countries,
- Moderna: dossier submitted early March, authorization expected this summer,
- Others: no information to this day.
💴 How much will cost the Covid-19 vaccine in Japan?
For the population / the government
Unlike PCR tests that were charged at a high price (~¥40,000 / ~US$365.20) and are still expensive today for most cases, vaccination will be free for Japanese people as its cost will be completely borne by the Japanese government.
The global expense will amount to ¥671 billion (~6.1 billions dollars) for Japan.
Compensations for possible side effects
Medical expenses and disability pension will be paid in case of severe side effects in relation to vaccination.
Moreover, the Japanese government committed to pay a ¥44.2 million (~US$403,524) compensation if a vaccinated patient dies of Covid, and ¥5 million (~US$45,648) per month in case of disability.
On March 26, the anaphylactic shock rate after a vaccine shot in Japan is 0,008% (47 cases, a majority of women), slightly higher than in the United States (0,0005%) and in Europe (0,002% in the United Kingdom).